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March 2, 2024

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Deal's Gone Bad
Large And In Charge (Jump Up! Records)

By: Alex Steininger

Deal's Gone Bad are an eight-piece ska band out of Chicago. Playing their music heavily rooted in traditional ska, they also leave enough room to add other influences such as oi and soul into their sound. The outcome is a style that truly pays spirit to the early Jamaican sound, while also paying tribute to the bands other influences.

Starting off with "The Elephants," they appropriately begin the song with, you guessed it...ELEPHANT NOISES! Then the percussion comes into the song over the sound of the wild (mostly bird chirps, etc.) From there some thick horns push their way into the song, before the percussion once again signals it's time for the rest of the band to join. The sharp horns continue with their thick accent to the music, while the guitar plays a soft and moving upbeat. The bass lightly moves through the song, while the organ drips in the background. The vocals have a strong kick to them, but still remain smooth. They also help back up the drums and the horns when they decide to pull some hooks out for the listeners. "Nothing Else" moves into a more soulful ska direction. The horns are soft and windy, blowing into the song and holding themselves on the same notes for a while. Then they disappear, only to come back later and throw some more soulful notes the listeners way. Mix in a nice solo to give the song a bit of a jazz feeling, the horns always bring a lot of warm and power to the music, rather than just complimenting it like a leaf of parsley. And on this number the vocals lose the kick to them, this time coming off very gentle and soul inspired. The song, as a whole, is a mid tempo number that has a lot of heart and energy to it, and with the drive of the guitar, has enough muscle to pull you out onto the dance floor. "Leaving Town" is an up tempo number with lots of hooks and horns that go from strong and in-your-face to slow and soothing. Bouncy enough to contend with the latest ska-pop bands and enough traditional spice to please the trad fans, this number has a lot of power. "Mini-thins" tones down everything and goes right to the source, stripping everything down to a very traditional sounding base. Strong horn lines that take charge, vocals that go from soothing to having a kick in them, and a steady upbeat combine nicely with the tight rhythm section to serve up a powerful number that has all the right moves to please. The band anthem, "Deal's Gone Bad," is another number that heavily displays its forefathers influences, while still staying very 'contemporary." Drenched in a traditional style, the vocals and the horns help to add a touch of oi and jazz. Together they tap at your soul and feet, getting you moving and grooving with a smile on your face. Ending with "Dirty Old Town," they finish things off with a soul-ska number that will gently sway you back and forth.

Deal's Gone Bad reach deep into their musical influences and come out with a style that crosses through all of them. Whether it be jazz, soul, or oi, they always fit it into their style of ska, as if it were the missing piece in a puzzle of their lives. The outcome is a refreshing blend of ska that jumps from soul-ska to very hooky, up tempo ska-oi, and then back again to traditionally drenched numbers, all the while keeping everything very familiar and cozy for the listener. I'll give this CD an A-.

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